• Courtesy the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

We’re always exposed to some amazing talent at the Spoleto Festival, but did you know that you’ve witnessed a genius in action? Cellist Alisa Weilerstein, who’s performed regularly at the chamber music series since 2003, was recently named a 2011 MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

Commonly known as the Genius Award, it comes with a $500,000, no-strings-attached check. Weilerstein is one of 22 fellows selected by the MacArthur Foundation this year, and at age 29, she’s one of the youngest. Fellows are chosen based on nominations, and their selection is usually a pretty big surprise. Winners are expected to make important contributions to their fields, which include architecture, sports medicine research, conservation, poetry, and history.

Besides her Spoleto performances, Weilerstein, based in New York, has appeared with all of the major orchestras throughout the United States and Europe, and last year she became an exclusive recording artist for Decca Classics. In 2009, Michelle Obama invited her to perform at the White House.

This season, she’ll play with a number of orchestras, including the Baltimore Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Minnesota and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics, and the Hamburg Philharmonic. She’ll also tour Australia and appear with the Melbourne, West Australian, and Sydney Symphonies. Spoleto reps tell us that nothing is confirmed, but Weilerstein will most likely return for the festival next spring.

Find out more about Weilerstein here and the winners here.